Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Craft Day Coming!

It's high time for another crafting day with some friends!

This weekend, I'm breaking out the Bind-it-All I begged the family for a couple of years ago for my birthday. I made this little sketch pad with it (the cover is from a box of tea):

Isn't it cute?

These pretty books are what we'll be making, with scrapbook paper and chipboard for the covers:

And the insides will be envelopes that I'd rescued, back in the days when I dabbled a bit in dumpster diving:

The envelope booklets can be used to collect receipts over the year, paper ephemera, ideas, etc.

I have some lovely paper and I've taken a road atlas apart for the covers:

Should be fun! Looking forward to crafting with friends. I'll post photos of what we do next week!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cake Pops!

Have you fallen in love with Cake Pops yet?

It's just a matter of time before you're smitten...

They were popularized a few years ago by the utterly fabulous Bakerella... and now you can find them at Starbucks... you can buy machines to make them with, but I wanted to do it old school, the way Bakerella intended us to do.

Check out her site for loads of tips and adorable inspiration.... better yet, beg, borrow or buy her wonderful book:

It's utterly chock-full of the most marvelous creations.... and while the website gives you all you need to make your own cake pops, the book goes into the ins and outs in much greater detail.

I decided to make pops based on the Hello Kitty pops posted on her site. 

As instructed, I made cake from a packaged cake mix. I chose red velvet cake, but, with some modifications to make it more like from scratch (substituted melted butter for the oil, buttermilk for the water and added a tablespoon of vinegar for that familiar red velvet tang).

Once the cake is made and cooled overnight, break it all up til it's just fine crumbs.

You're then supposed to mix the crumbs with prepared frosting, but as I'm not a fan of canned frosting, I made the homemade cream cheese frosting from this site instead: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-cake-balls-78637

Mix it all together til uniform. You might need to use your hands (it's helpful to have some handy middle schoolers on hand for this messy job -- rewarding them with a lick of the frosting beaters helps!).

Pop in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to firm up a bit. Then roll into balls (I used a scooper to measure out uniform amounts).

Put the balls in the freezer for another 15 minutes or so. In the meantime, melt some Wilton candy melts -- I had to use two 14oz packages to cover a batch of cake balls. Nuke them in the microwave in a small bowl for 30 second intervals, stirring in between, til they're all melted.

Now comes the fun part!

Take your balls, reshaping if necessary. Dip a lollipop stick into the candy melt and then push deeply into your cake ball. Set aside that ball while you do a few more balls.... it needs a little time for the candy melt used as "glue" to set.

When you're ready to dip into the candy melt, try to do it in one motion -- the less you swirl the cake pop in the candy melt, the better (too much time spent at this step will result in the bumpy surface). Gently tap the cake pop to allow excess melt to drip off, then give it a swirl to incorporate the last little drip into your pop.

This will make a perfectly round cake ball. Before the candy melt has set, you can sprinkle it with candy decorations.

To make the kitty shape, with ears, Bakerella cleverly instructs you to adhere chocolate chips where the ears are with candy melt before dunking... the smooth coating over the cake ball and chips will give you that adorable Sanrio shape.

Ideally, I would have punched holes into a spare bit of styrofoam to hold my drying cake pops, but, sadly, we had no such styrofoam, so we made do with a wicker basket, making for an odd device in the kitchen....

Once the candy melt has fully hardened, you can draw in extra features with edible ink pens. This is another marvelous invention Bakerella introduced me to! Felt tip pens you can use on food! They made drawing in Hello Kitty's features really easy....

This would be a fun project to do with kids or other crafty adults. Just have lots of interesting candies and sprinkles on hand to decorate your treats with...

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year, that is...

The Lunar New Year begins on January 23rd. Will you be ready?

2012 is the Year of the Dragon, a most auspicious astrological sign. It also happens to be the astrological sign of my twins, who were born in 2000, a golden dragon year, triply full of luck. Coincidentally, their father and paternal grandfather were also born in dragon years, so I'm surrounded by these fire-breathers!

So, of course, I had to make the effort and make a few cards... I'll definitely make one for my mom, who really was psyched about the whole golden dragon thing (and she's normally not into that kind of thing at all, but my pregnancy suddenly had her spouting off strange superstitions like an extra from the Joy Luck Club).

I found some lovely artwork depicting the twelve animals of the Chinese horoscope, which adorns the front of this card:

The inside of the card is blank... in fact, there is no writing on the card, in English or Chinese, making it appropriate for other cultures celebrating the lunar new year. Or as a notecard or birthday card to someone who happens to have been born in the year of the dragon.

For full details, check out my Etsy listing for the card:

Thanks for looking!